Electronic Withdrawal in the American Wild

©2013 by Marianne Lonsdale

My family took a six-hour road trip from Oakland to Sequoia National Park last week. My husband, Michael, was the driver. I’m the trusty navigator with maps, AAA tour book and the 800 number that helps locate In-N-Out Burger locations along Highway 99.

My ten-year-old son, Nick, and his buddy, Josh, sat in the back seat, zoning out with iPods and handheld video games. We’d instructed them that electronics would only be allowed in the car while traveling to and from Sequoia. No electronics during the five days in the park. So Nick and Josh were getting in their last fix.

Separation anxiety for ten-year-old boys from electronics is very real. Josh and Nick were a bit bored the first couple of days. They were underwhelmed with the General Sherman Tree, the biggest tree in the world. Both thought it would be bigger. The tunnel log was deemed a rip off.

We hiked the 380 steps up Moro Rock on our second day. Josh stopped at about the halfway mark. He was too tired to keep climbing and was freaked out at being so high. Thereafter, he’d shoot me an evil eye when I’d outline our next hike.

Both boys were pissed that there were only thirteen channels on the TV in our room and that the picture was grainy. They put forth a valiant effort to watch the screen our first night, but then declared it unwatchable.

By day three, the shift in interest started, as I’d hoped it would. My son asked if I’d buy him a book to read. He also earned the designation of Junior Ranger of Sequoia National Park by completing a booklet of educational activities.

Josh couldn’t care less about the Junior Ranger program. However, he thrilled at catching trout in Stony Creek and loved his first experience of swimming in an alpine lake. Touring Crystal Caves was creepy enough to count as fun.

We lucked out our fourth day in Sequoia when we drove into the parking lot at Cascade Meadow and saw two rangers at the edge of the lot. Two mama bears, one with two cubs and the other with three, were vying for domination. One adorable brown cub mistakenly climbed up a tree occupied by two cubs of the other mother. That mother rushed up the tree with a fierce growl and swatted the interloper to the ground. We were glued to the scene for the next two hours, watching the mothers face off with growls a few times. We held our collective breaths, wondering if a fight was coming. Nick and Josh said this drama was way better than the Discovery Channel.

On our last morning, Josh asked if we could go back to Moro Rock. He wanted to challenge himself by hiking to the top. Josh made the entire climb – a hot, sweaty and proud boy.

We returned to the car and started our journey home. Earplugs came out and the boys switched on the electronics for the long drive. But they’ve got a little more between their ears than when we left Oakland.


Marianne Lonsdale lives with her husband, Michael, and son, Nicholas, in Oakland, California.  She writes personal essays and short stories, and is now focused on developing a novel.  Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle, Literary Mama, Fiction365, The Sun, and Pulse.  She’s read at various events including San Francisco’s Litquake festival.

Marianne is a co-founder of the group, Write On, Mamas! http://writeonmamas.com She is also a member of Left Coast Writers® and is honored to be an alumna of the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley.